Sometimes I feel like I'm terrible at curating traditions, and worry that my kids will not grow up with sweet, every-year special celebrations that we faithfully did. But then, my daughter reminded me about candy math.
Candy math is our favorite day-after-Halloween homeschool tradition. It started out as a simple way to prolong the excitement of trick-or-treating: "let's sort your Halloween candy!" But soon it became a way to use materials that we had temporary access to: math is about numbers, and the quantity of candy we have is exponential.
But, the amazing thing about candy math is that the options are never ending! Here are some ways to learn math with candy, on November 1st or any other day. If you are among the many Christians I know that don't celebrate Halloween, this can be done with any candy, any time!
Candy Math Ideas For Young Children
1. Sort- Sorting candy is a simple but exciting skill for young children. They will likely enjoy sorting by variety, but there are other sorting options.
- chocolate versus not chocolate
- one piece versus multiple pieces
- by color
- by texture
- sweet versus sour
2. Graph- After sorting candy by type, try graphing the candy. With young children, I use the candy as the graph, meaning I don't try to make bars or lines. I simply line up the candy in an organized way, so that 4 M&M packs are the same height as 4 tiny little peanut butter cups. That way, children can visually compare quantities of candies.
3. More or less?- Practice comparing quantities by grabbing two varieties of candy, and having your child determine which is more and which is less. You could even have them write the numerals on paper and use greater than, less than signs to compare them.
4. Weigh on a balance scale- If you have a balance scale, you can have fun with your child by comparing the weight of two different candies. Decide which one is heavier, and then make a guess at a candy that might be heavier than that. Have a little weigh-off of sorts!
5. Addition and subtraction- Subtraction is obviously more appropriate for this occasion 🙂 Candies with many pieces work best for this. Open up a pack of M&M's, count how many there are, and then make up math problems from what's inside. Here are some examples: "How many red plus blue do you have?" "What happens if you eat 5 of them?" You can do the same thing with bigger pieces of candy, but having little treats to snack on during math time is always appreciated!
Candy Math Ideas for Older Children
Many of the ideas for younger children can be adapted for older children.
1. Graphing- Older kids can make more of a proper graph. Instead of just using the pieces of candy as the graph, they can make their own bar graph on a piece of graph paper.
2. Multiplication- Use candy packs with multiple pieces of candy in it to practice multiplication. First, take a pack of multi-piece candy, and have your child open it and count how many pieces are inside. Then, count how many packs of that same type of candy you have altogether. Finally, have your child multiply the number of candies in one pack with the number of packs of candies there are in all. That will tell you how many pieces of that specific candy you have!
3. Negative numbers- This was a lesson that I did with 4th graders as a public school teacher, and I was told that it was "too hands on." Well, thankfully, hands-on is the name of the homeschooling game, so I used this lesson proudly with my current 4th grader!
To do this, it helps to have some negative number addition and subtraction problems written on a piece of paper or notecards. Take two different colors of multiple-pieced candies, like M&M's. Decide which color will represent negative numbers, and which color will represent positive numbers.
If the first problem is -3 + 6, you would have 6 candies that represent the positive color and 3 that represent the negative color. Lay them out side by side, and you'll see that there are three more positives than negatives, so the answer to this problem is 3. When subtracting, remember that pesky trick that subtracting a negative number actually means you add the positive. So, 5 minus -3 is the same as saying 5 +3. I don't make the rules.
4. Fractions: Part of a Whole- There are lots of fun ways to learn fractions with candy! The first is pretty simple, and most children with a general concept of fractions will find it almost too easy. Take a candy bar that has multiple pieces. Then, take one piece off, and ask what fraction it represents. If there are 4 pieces of the candy bar, one piece equals 1/4 of the candy bar.
5. Fractions: Fraction of a Group- Similarly, you can learn fractions with multiple pieces of candy. Using candy like M&M's or Skittles, count how many there are total. Then, have your child count how many there are of one color. That color represents the numerator, and the number of candies total is the denominator. For example, if you have 15 pieces of candy, and 5 of them are red, then 5/15 are red. Practice reducing fractions with your child, by dividing the numerator and denominator by a common divisor. 5 and 15 are both divisible by 5, so the fraction of red candies is 1/3.
What are some other fun ways to learn math with candy?